Infant Car Safety Seat Buyers Guide,Tips & Review
Unless you've already purchased a 2 way car child safety seat, when your baby reaches 9 months or 9kg you'll have to transfer them to an Infant car seat, which depending on the model will see them through to about 4 years old or 18kgs. Some of the larger seats are now very modular, so could stay with your child until they are about 12 years old, by extending, losing the harnesses & turning into high-back booster type seats.
What should we be looking for? The seat must fit your child and car perfectly, and then we should be looking for extra safety features.
First, is your car fitted with isofix? These small metal brackets make securing your baby seat much easier & safer - its very difficult to fit an isofix seat wrongly - but not all iso fix seats are compatible with iso-fix cars, please check with the baby-seats manufacturer.
So we're now going to look at the features we should be looking for in our infant car baby seat. One that can recline is great for when baby wants to sleep, but be aware that in some cars the seat must be upright to fit properly, in the recline position you can't get good contact with the back of the baby seat and the car seat itself.
I recommend any car seat with some sort of belt tensioner. These work by putting pressure on the belt after you have clipped it in, usually with some sort of handle or lever that presses on the seat belt and pulls the car seat in for a really tight fit.
Five point safety harnesses are better than 3, and seats like the Maxi-Cosi Tobi have sprung loaded harnesses that move out of the way when lifting baby into the seat - very useful.
In the more expensive seats the width and headrests can easily be adjusted, try to go for a seat where the headrest and straps can move up or down by lifting a lever rather than having to unthread the harness to move it to higher or lower positions.
Comfort is important too. Car safety seats cannot have too much give in them, but in recent years manufacturers have introduced new materials that give a plusher feel, much better for longer journeys.
In conclusion, try as many seats as you can, get a really experienced shop assistant to point out the differences, fit the seats in your car, and talk to other parents & their experiences with different makes and models of car-seat.
Oh yes, I really like the Maxi-Cosi Tobi Child Seat (9-18kg, 20-40lbs), forward facing. It's so full of inovative ideas that make you think "why didn't they do that earlier?"
The Tobi uses a unique seat-belt routing system that almost completely eliminates buckle crunch & also ensures the fit is very snug to your car indeed - the seat-belt tensioners "suck" the seat back into the car - very clever.
The best thing about the Tobi is that it is designed to be used single-handedly. The belts are sprung loaded so they jump out of the way when you're putting baby in or out. The belts also automatically slacken when you undo the buckle and can be tightened (with one hand) when the buckle is done up again. (No pressing a release button).
There is a handy indicator on the buckle that turns green when the harness is at the right tightness, and goes red if it becomes too loose. (ie if baby is wriggling too much.)
The harness and head-rest height can be adjusted with one hand without having to re-thread the belts through the back of the seat.
Need I go on? If you want the best, non-isofix baby seat for your child you can't do much better than a Maxi-Cosi Tobi, and please choose one of the bright colours!
About a third cheaper than the Tobi, The Maxi-Cosi Priori XP is still an excellent child seat for kids from 9 months to 4 years (9-18kg).
It's got the new Side Impact protection standard, it reclines, has a five point harness, seat-belt tensioners, one-pull harness tightener, cup-holders, washable cover, etc.
It's very easy to get the Priori XP to fit well to your car. It uses a traditional routing, but after you have threaded the car seat-belts through the seat, done up the buckle, pulled the belts tight and locked them into place, you then use a handle on the front which moves a lever that pulls on the seat-belts even harder - locking it into place for a perfect fit.
Because it uses the traditional belt route for this type of seat (rather than the Tobi's) the Priori can be liable to buckle crunch, so make sure you check the seat in your car before you buy.
Like most seats in this category its best left in place, as it's quite heavy to lift in and out of the car, but baby will be very comftable and safe. Highly recommended.
The Britax Renaissance SI is another heavy-weight child seat for kids from 9 months to approximately 4 years old. Featuring Side Impact Protection, 5 point harness, recline, a unique tensioning system and easy harness adjustment, this is probably Britax's best fitting non-isofix seat.
WIth the Renaissance you thread the car's seat-belts through in the normal way, lock them into place, then pull the lever on the left-hand side of the seat. The bottom of the seat then pushes down, tensioning the seat-belts and giving an extremely good fit. The routing of the seat-belts helps to avoid most instances of buckle-crunch, but as ever, check in your car before you buy.
In older style seats it's always a pain when you have to adjust the harness as your child grows - it usually involves re-threading the belts through the back of the seat, but with the Britax Renaissance this is unecessary, the head-rest and harness slide up and down without having to touch the belts - easy.
Although it's a heavy seat, I really like the Renaissance
With the Britax Eclipse SI we're moving towards the budget end of the market - but that doesn't mean we're sacrificing safety or fit - this seat has side impact protection, multiple recline positions, seat-belt locks and an easy-pull harness adjuster.
Considerably lighter than the other seats on test the Eclipse is easily moved from car to car. Because it has no seat-belt tensioning system you have to use your weight, by pushing the seat down, as you tighten the seat-belts to get a good fit, but with practice this becomes second nature.
The harness has to be re-threaded through the back of the seat to adjust for child growth, but it's recommended that you take this to a dealer to show you how, it's not the easist procedure.
Overall the Eclipse is a good seat as long as you take the time and effort to fit it properly, and is always available for a good price.
The Britax Evolva 123 is part of a new Generation of child seats that are designed to take you kiddy from 9kg to 36kg, that is from when they come out of their first seat right through until they're big enough to use an adult seat belt.
This obviously saves you quite a lot of money - you only need two baby seats - and you don't lose out on safety, but you do lose the recline options found on the smaller seats. (The Evolva does have a sort of recline function, but often this can't be used if you want a good fit.)
For the slightly older child, say two-three upwards, the Evolva is an excellent option. To start with you use the integral harness, which is easily adjusted up and down with the head-rest, then when you child becomes too big for the harness you use the seat as a high-back booster, using the head-rest's seat-belt guide to hold your child in place with an adult seat belt.
The Evolva has no seat-belt tensioners, so a good fit is obtained by pushing your weight down on the seat while pulling the seat-belts tight, but once it's in place it's rock-solid.
Cup-holders are a nice addition for the older child, and the extra room makes for a more comftable ride.
Try an Evolva in your car (with your kid in it) and I'm sure you'll find it an excellent choice.